By Tevi Troy
The National Institutes of Health recently announced that it would be engaging in a billion-dollar effort to encourage the development of new pharmaceutical therapies. The New York Times headline for this story sounded innocuous: “Federal Research Center Will Help Develop Medicines.” But not everyone is so sanguine about this effort. Fox News, for example, re-ran the Times story under the header: “Obama Creating Billion Dollar Gov’t-Run Drug Company.”
Even though people might differ on the interpretation, most everyone can agree on the underlying and problematic fact that the development of new pharmaceutical therapies has slowed in the United States. The Times story has two charts accompanying its article. One showed that research spending by the large pharmaceutical companies has declined in recent years. The second chart showed that the number of new pharmaceuticals approved by the FDA has been lower in recent years than it was throughout much of the 1990s. The government’s response to these troubling developments is to try to make the NIH into another drug developer, at a time when existing drug developers are having a difficult time getting their products to market.